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The Cenci: A Tragedy in Five Acts: An Authoritative Text Based on the 1819 Edition [Paperback]

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Item description for The Cenci: A Tragedy in Five Acts: An Authoritative Text Based on the 1819 Edition by Percy Bysshe Shelley & Cajsa C. Baldini...

This authoritative edition of Shelley's The Cenci is based on the first edition of 1819, and incorporates Shelley's errata. This is the first edition ever to present the text as Shelley intended it, rather than based on the emendations of later editors, such as his wife, Mary Shelley, who revised the text after his death. This edition also includes a new introduction, extensive annotation, and appendices containing contextual and intertextual information and the text of contemporary reviews.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   180
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.25" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 2008
Publisher   Valancourt Books
ISBN  1934555142  
ISBN13  9781934555149  

Availability  0 units.

More About Percy Bysshe Shelley & Cajsa C. Baldini

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! J. M. Beach is a lecturer at the University of Texas, San Antonio. He has advanced degrees in English, History, Philosophy, and Education. He has been a teacher and educational administrator for over fifteen years. Beach has taught many subjects in the Humanities to a broad range of students, from pre-school all the way to university, in public and private schools, in the U.S., South Korea, and China. Previously Beach was a Lecturer at Oregon State University, the University of California, Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, and at several community colleges in Southern California and Central Texas. Beach's scholarly research focuses on several distinct, but interrelated subjects: The philosophy of knowledge, the science of culture and social institutions, the history and philosophy of education, and literature. Beach is also a published poet. Links to his books, articles, and conference papers can be found at his website at Follow his blogs at and

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in 1792 and died in 1822.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( S ) > Shelley, Percy Bysshe
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Anthologies
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Single Authors > British & Irish

Reviews - What do customers think about The Cenci: A Tragedy in Five Acts: An Authoritative Text Based on the 1819 Edition?

Awesome retelling of a true story in dramatic form  Nov 19, 2005
Shelley's The Cenci is just one of many tellings of a true story that captures the imagination and the heart of almost everybody who hears of it. The story has been retold in many novels, even in opera.

It is the tale of the lovely and innocent Beatrice Cenci, who in late 16th century Rome was molested by a corrupt and powerful father, Count Francesco Cenci. Her father was so well-connected that there was no one, not even the Pope, to whom she could turn for protection. So, with the help of her mother and her brother, she seeks the ultimate revenge and pays the price.

Shelley's poetic drama is considered one of the best works of his short life. His treatment is more Shakespearean than poetic, but without the immortal bard's light comic touches. The Cenci is true tragedy through and through with a poetic touch that will capture the soul of the reader. I found myself reading passages aloud to myself to both hear the dramatic content and to better understand the meaning of dialogs broken into lines of poetry. This is not an easy book to read, both for its subject and its writing style, yet the reward is well worth the effort. Some of Shelley's greatest lines are in this work. Here is a brief segment from the 5th Act of Beatrice's words in contemplating her fate:

Oh, trample out that thought! Worse than Despair,
Worse than the bitterness of death, is hope;
It is the only ill which can find place
Upon the giddy, sharp and narrow hour
Tottering beneath us. Plead with the swift frost
That it should spare the eldest flower of spring;
Plead with awakening earthquake, o'er whose couch
Even now a city stands, strong, fair, and free;
Now stench and blackness yawn, like death. Oh, plead
with famine, or wind-walking Pestilence,
Blind lightning, or the deaf sea, not with man!
Cruel, cold, formal man; righteous in words,
In deeds a Cain.
Intense Melodrama from P.B. Shelley  Jul 28, 2000
Percy Shelley's tragedy "The Cenci" is a lyrical and intense gothic melodrama set in late 1500's Italy. The play centers around the lives of the noble house of Cenci, which is daily terrorized by Francesco Cenci, head of the household. Francesco is molded in the style of other gothic villains, such as Radcliffe's Montoni and Walpole's Manfred, yet he manages to stand apart from them.

Cenci is, in both word and deed, more insistently evil than either of the aforementioned figures. Cenci's purpose, unlike the other two, is not to increase his wealth, or secure his lineage, but instead to bring both to ruin. From the beginning of the play, Cenci seeks to eliminate his entire family. He firmly believes that his curses are heard and enacted simply because he is the authority figure in his home.

Beatrice, Cenci's daughter, and her step-mother, Lucretia live in a state of constant apprehension and fear of Cenci. Beatrice is the tragic heroine of Shelley's play, whose beauty, apparent intelligence, and strong will prepare her only to be fully aware of the injustices of her father, common law, and religious law, and her inability to enlist the mercy of any of them to aid her family.

As Beatrice, her family, and friends, attempt to wrangle out of Cenci's designs, they find themselves drawn into a whirlpool of desperate acts. The gender issues and politics of the play indicate the helplessness of women, be they strong (Beatrice) or weak (Lucretia), and point out a total disdain for autocratic and aristocratic rule, be it familial or otherwise.

Written in 1819, only a few years after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, these issues may be a direct response to the disillusionment of Shelley, a second-generation Romantic poet, with the failure of the French Revolution to affect any real change. Poetically, it may echo his doubts about the effects of the Romantic visionary imagination. At any rate, "The Cenci" is a well-written, if occasionally outlandish tragedy, and certainly worth reading.


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